Blackpool on acid

Road trips cost about $1000 per week.  That’s about ??600. You can do it a lot cheaper than that but you have to start thinking about camping/sleeping in the car/spending days doing nothing. 

With that in mind, we had been planning a monster journey from Vancouver, down the Oregon coast to San Francisco, Yosemite Park, Los Angeles, San Diego and finally Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.  Would have taken in about 10,000km of road along the way and taken in the region of 3-4 weeks.  As we started planning out the days however, it dawned on us that we would spend quite a lot of time in the car and not that much time actually doing anything. The journey from Vancouver down to San Francisco is about 17 hours straight, but if you get off the motorway and take the coast road, you’re looking at a 3 day trip.  On top of the time constraints, a year of sporadic work and lots of ‘holidays’ have left us a little bit short of money and that’s before you include the 1 planned and 2 unplanned trips back to the UK we’ve made this year.

So we postponed the big journey and instead opted to take a cheap flight from Bellingham in northern Washington state to Las Vegas, and then drive to the Grand Canyon. The trip started badly on the journey from Vancouver to Bellingham, with the ever unreliable Greyhound bus breaking down barely 30 minutes in.  We scrambled across the border only to find our flight delayed by over 4 hours so it was with some relief (and whoops of joy from a large section of passengers on the flight) that we finally arrived in Sin City.

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Vegas. Only 14 lanes of traffic needed here.

In short, Las Vegas is very much like Blackpool would be if you gave everyone in the North West a ??100,000 gambling budget every year and figured out a way to make it summer for 11 months of the year.  I had heard all the stories, seen all the movies and STILL I was quite shocked by the scale of it all. We’d booked to stay at the Excalibur, which, you guessed it, is a massive freakin’ castle. There are thousands of rooms, and as a result thousands of people there. In fact, a bit of research revealed to me that 8 of the top 10 largest hotels in the world are here, and these alone have in excess of 39,000 rooms between them. Bear in mind that the largest hotel in the UK has only 1,058 rooms and is the only hotel in the top 100 (The Hilton Metropole in Paddington).

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The vast ‘Excalibur’ hotel, Las Vegas

The casino litters the ground floor and people are all over it, piling cash into slot machines and onto roulette tables. Everyone who gambles gets free drinks and there are no windows or clocks.  Our delayed arrival at gone midnight seemed like the most natural thing in the world. 

Next day we checked out the pool then decided to go on a good old Vegas ‘bender’. Got dressed up at 2 in the afternoon and went for an all-you-can-eat buffet followed by a few drinks and a traipse around the hotels. 

Despite having their own unique character on the outside, they are all very similar on the interior.  Ground floor mega-casinos with the odd added attraction tucked in the corners.  For example, the MGM grand has lions. Yes, lions.

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Mrs. Lion apparently can’t hear or smell anything through the glass. She can definitely see the little kid at the font though. Mmm, dinner.

Most of the interesting attractions are away from the casino halls however.  Luxor has a massive light which can, according to the hotel, be seen from space.

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Luxor. Although all this is actually in Giza.

Stratosphere has a bunch of rides which dangle you precariously over the side of an 800 foot tower. And yes, I had a go on one of them. It was THE most terrifying ride I’d ever been on by a country mile.

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Stratosphere tower. That ride is aptly called ‘Insanity’

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Wouldn’t recommend this to my mum

The Bellagio has a great water fountain display which we observed from the patio of former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar’s bar “Cabo Wabo”.

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The Bellagio’s fountains. As seen on screen

And Paris has, you guessed it, a ‘model’ Eiffel Tower which you can ride up and down. A woman on the flight back to Bellingham asked the woman next to her if she’d been to ‘Paris’. They were chatting about it for a good 10 minutes before I realised they were talking about this hotel. 

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Ride the Eiffel Tower before seeing Barry Manilow

Drink was consumed and wagers were placed and we came out of the night 20 dollars up and happy to take off on our trip
out to the Grand Canyon.

On our return, we’d decided to take in old Vegas. Downtown Vegas. Where it all started. The Fremont street are has been spruced up recently and now boasts such attractions as the worlds largest TV screen.

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The screen is 3 blocks long. That’s about 3 football pitches I suppose.

Its hotels have also been revamped somewhat, none more so than the Golden Nugget where we were staying.  The original attraction, the ‘world’s largest’ (are you detecting a theme here?) gold nugget is still on display…

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Found by a man with a metal detector in 1 foot of earth.

…but they’ve now added a $30 million shark-tank-water-slide attraction which is so ‘Austen Powers’ that I had to book into this place.  It is awesome. 

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‘The Tank’ at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

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Me sliding through the frikkin’ shark tank

The old town is much more like I expected Vegas to be. Less corporate, more down to earth, seedy, rough and ready. I suppose it did really remind me of British seaside towns like Blackpool in a way. Just with more high-rolling poker tables than 2p drops.  In a way, I much preferred this, and so did Nich. In fact I was so inspired, I went out for one last play at the oldest casino in town, the Golden Gate, circa 1906. 10 minutes later I was $40 down and penniless. I skulked off back to the hotel.  The house always wins in the end.
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